The Bell Company’s VP of Innovations Scott Drennan has a sense of humor. “We had jetpacks before Tony Stark,” he tells the audience at his keynote address at London’s Commercial UAV Show. He’s not really kidding: Bell, while better known for helicopters, started with planes, and have been pioneers in air transportation ever since. (Bell is now a subsidiary of multi-national Textron.)
Now, says Drennan, Bell is ready to pioneer the next aspect of air transportation. “Air Taxis are a major initiative for Bell,” he says.
The benefits of drone transportation are clear. In Europe, it’s a major topic in discussions about smart cities and new transportation paradigms. Drone taxis are commonly referred to as an aspect of urban air mobility (UAM), because they represent major progress in retooling urban transportation systems: requiring limited additional ground space, as compared with adding new subway lines or highway lanes; environmentally friendly; and fast. “A one hour trip in the car becomes a 8 minute drone flight,” says Drennan, painting an appealing picture for anyone who has suffered urban traffic. “Six or seven persons can fly at 150 mph.”
While the idea of air taxis may seems like something out of the Jetsons, Drennan says that the timeframe is short. Test flights are right around the corner – and large scale implementation will take place in a short 10 year time span. “[Estimates indicate]…by 2030 there will be 750 million passenger trips worldwide,” Drennan says.
Air taxis aren’t Bell’s only investment in drone technology. They’re also developing industrial drone delivery solutions – designed to carry a wide variety of payloads for logistics operations including warehousing and other industrial solutions.